When New Cancer Treatments Do More Harm Than Good

[pullquote]  Like many people in his shoes, my father opted to try the new drug because he thought it might help. It was expensive, but his insurance would cover it, and the high price seemed to suggest it was special. It was also better than doing nothing.  [/pullquote]

Cary Gross, professor and cancer researcher at Yale University School of Medicine,  writes a personal opinion piece for the Washington Post. Gross’ life work is to study whether new cancer treatments that are successful in small trials will be therapeutic in routine clinical practice. His 80-year-old father, diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease, was offered and took the opportunity to try a new cancer treatment drug, despite the limited research data available and the high cost.

“Like many people in his shoes, my father opted to try the new drug because he thought it might help. It was expensive, but his insurance would cover it, and the high price seemed to suggest it was special. It was also better than doing nothing.”

Gross’ continues to explain the nuances of cancer treatment drug trials. The Food and Drug Administration approved of this specific treatment with only 100 patients studied. More often than not, these drug trials are also performed on younger, healthier adults whose bodies simply respond differently than one of an 80-year-old. In fact, his father experience further debilitation as a result of the side effects of the new cancer treatment. Unable to walk and bedbound, he was in a rougher shape than when he has started.

Cary Gross explains that the government regulations are about to be loosened by President Trump in order to support pharmaceutical companies.

“The 21st Century Cures Act has already created a pathway for companies to obtain FDA approvals with less rigorous evidence. At the same time, large funders of research that study the safety and effectiveness of drugs, such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, face uncertain futures in the current Congress.”

Cary Gross ends by strongly stating that people deserve more treatment options and focus should be placed on creating more possible, available cure for diseases. However, prioritizing research and the effectiveness of such drugs is necessary. Evidence-based treatments must become available so that they no longer do more harm than good.

Margot Bentley’s VSED Story

When I presented recently at the first national conference on VSED at Seattle University, Katherine Hammond followed me in the program. She was Margot Bentley’s daughter and Health Agent. She tearfully told a tragic story about how her mother’s Health Directive was not honored in a nursing home. When she could no longer feed herself, she wanted to be able to stop eating and drinking. The nursing home would not allow this to occur. With the Alzheimer’s getting progressively worse, her mother was kept alive for many years until her body turned rigid. There was a police order that prevented her daughter from taking her home where she would be able to not eat and drink and die peacefully. This is what her health directive requested. Sometimes we are grateful for a death. This is one of those times. Margot Bentley finally died at the nursing home in the Vancouver area in Canada. In order to prevent pain from her body becoming rigid, her doctor gave her additional morphine. Then she died.

From Vancouver Sun [PNG Merlin Archive]

http://vancouversun.com/health/seniors/margot-bentley-dies-a-finality-that-couldnt-come-too-soon-for-anguished-family

If you are interested in how the story has progressed here are the first two articles about the Margot Bentley case:

MEDICINE MATTERS: A family's anguish as nursing home continues feeding vegetative patient

MEDICINE MATTERS: CEO apologizes to family for breach of privacy by care aide in Margot Bentley case